The laying on of hands is found in both Old and New Testament. It was used in different ways and in different ceremonies. It is so important to God that He made it one of the founda- tion doctrines of the Church of God. It may surprise some that the laying on of hands - one person placing his hands on the body of another - is deemed by God important enough that He made it one of the foundational doctrines of the New Testament Church. Notice what the book of Hebrews records: "Go on unto perfection; not laying again the FOUNDATION of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" ( Heb.6:1, 2 KJV throughout, emphasis mine). The ceremony of the laying on of hands is here put alongside such vital and basic doctrines as: repentance, faith, baptisms, resurrection, and eternal judgment. No small doctrines, but essential truths to the Christian community. The practice of "laying on of hands" goes back to the earliest of times, it is truly an ancient and honored ceremony. FIRST RECORDED CEREMONY The first account the Bible gives us of a special ceremony where one person lays hands on another person within the contexts of a divine purpose, is in the life of Abraham as recorded in Genesis chapter twenty four. Abraham was by now an old man, and he thought it was time that his son Isaac should have a wife. He commissioned his oldest servant that ruled over he had to go to his a ancestral line of kinsmen and among them find Isaac a wife. Notice verse two: "And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house put I pray you, your hand UNDER MY THIGH." The servant was to then swear by the Lord what Abraham wanted him to do (verse 3, 4). Verse 9 says, "And the servant PUT HIS HAND UNDER THE THIGH of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter." Here was the laying on of hands for a divine purpose. JOSEPH'S SONS ARE BLESSED From the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the laying on of hands was used in ceremonies which carried with it a specific meaning. An illustration is found in Genesis 48. Joseph was told that his father Jacob was very sick. So, Joseph came to see him and brought his two sons with him - Manasseh and Ephraim. After telling Joseph about the promise of blessing God had given him (verse 4), Jacob said that Joseph's sons would become his sons, just as Reuben and Simeon were his sons (verse 5). As far as Jacob was concerned, together with God' s approval these two sons of Joseph were now legal sons of Jacob and his heirs of the blessings God had promised him. All this would become more specific with the ceremony of the laying on of hands on these two individuals - Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen. 48:13-16). Notice that Jacob DELIBERATELY crossed his hands during the ceremony so that Ephraim, the younger brother received the greater blessing, and Manasseh the older brother, received a lesser blessing. The laying on of hands here again illustrates a special ceremony within the context of a divine purpose. MORE OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES In all examples of the ceremony of laying on of hands by individuals upon individuals we see it is for the reason of setting someone apart for a SPECIAL PURPOSE and/or BLESSING. When God chose the tribe of Levi for the service of priesthood in ancient Israel , they were set apart for holy duties by the ceremony of the laying on of hands. Only a tribe so consecrated by this important ceremony could officiate in the temple or tabernacle of God. The event is recorded in Numbers 8: 5-11. First, the Levites were cleansed and purified (verses 6, 7),an offering was made (verse 8) then individuals representing the tribes of Israel, "shall put their hands upon the Levites: And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord" (verses 10, 11). And verse 14: "Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine" said God. Joshua was selected to serve the people of Israel after Moses (Num. 27:15-23). God told Moses to lay hands on Joshua to set him apart for service as leader of the people(verse 18). And Moses did so: ".....he laid his hands upon him, and gave him charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses" (verses 22, 23). The laying on of hands ceremony is used in setting apart individuals God has called to serve His people. We shall see that this holds true in the New Testament also. Spiritual gifts were bestowed in Old Testament times as well as New Testament times, by the laying on of hands. In the case of Joshua it is written: "And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him" (Deut. 34: 9). LAYING ON OF HANDS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT As we have seen some instances of this foundational doctrine of the laying on of hands is used to confer a BLESSING. Such is the case in the New Testament of the blessing of LITTLE CHILDREN (Mat.19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16). The families that followed Jesus knew of the value of the blessing of children. Jesus blessed children brought to Him, and He used the ceremony of the laying on of hands (Mat.19:13, 15). Jesus came and lived the perfect life. He set us an example in every way. The elders of the church of God should also bless the little children brought to them with the ceremony of the laying on of hands and pray. One of the signs Jesus said would follow His servants would be the GIFT OF HEALING, a gift often granted through the laying on of hands (Mark 16:17, 18; James 5:14, 15). Jesus often laid hands upon the sick in healing them, but not every time, so we need to remember that when it comes to healing God can and often does grant healing WITHOUT the laying on of hands. Read the wonderful understanding of faith exhibited by the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. He knew Jesus had the authority to heal his servant without actually laying hands on him. Certainly someone can contact via phone or letter, the servants of God and ask they pray for them to be healed and God can grant their petition, without the laying on of hands. In writing to Timothy, Paul emphasized he use the spiritual gift that was in him. The Amplified Bible puts it this way: "Do not neglect the gift which is in you, (that special inward endowment) which was directly imparted to you (by the Holy Spirit) by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you, at your ordination" (1 Tim. 4:14). Timothy was given some special spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by the elders. If this was at Timothy's ordination to the ministry or at some other time, is not clear, nor does the context tell us. The compilers of the Amplified Bible added the words "at your ordination." The fact remains, a special gift was bestowed on Timothy and the laying on of hands was involved. Sometimes when certain ministers of the Lord are called to do a certain task WITHIN their ministerial work, other ministers will be led by the Spirit to set them apart for that specific job and lay hands on them and pray. This example is recorded in Acts 13:1-3. In the New Testament, deacons were set apart for handling the physical administrative details of the church by the laying on of hands (Acts 6:1-6). The laying on of hands ceremony for ordination to eldership and deaconship is not to be taken lightly, or done in haste. Paul warned Timothy to take it very seriously: "Lay hands suddenly on no man" (1 Tim.5:22). In the Revised Standard Version this phrase is translated: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands." We see from Acts 14:23 that the laying on of hands for ordination should be accompanied with prayer and fasting. LAYING ON OF HANDS IN NEW TESTAMENT BAPTISM I have left this last example of the New Testament for the end of this article. It is the one aspect of the foundational doctrine that many do not practice, nor see the necessity to do so. Is the laying on of hands "mandatory" and a part of the overall rite of water baptism? You will notice in Hebrews 6 verse 2, the laying on of hands comes after the mention of water baptism. In this section of scripture I believe it is significant when we consider the imperative examples found in the book of Acts. Turn to chapter 8. The people of the Church, except the apostles, were scattered abroad and went everywhere preaching the word (the preaching of the word is not just for the ministers of the church). Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ (verses 4 - 6). Many believed Philip's preaching about the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, and were BAPTIZED (verse 12). The apostles on hearing this good news from Samaria sent Peter and John to them. When these two apostles came they found that although many had been baptized in the name of Jesus, they had not received the Holy Spirit (verses 14 -16). Now notice verse 17, "Then LAID THEY THEIR HANDS ON THEM, and they received the Holy Spirit." Turn to Acts chapter 9. Saul or Paul is struck blind by Jesus and is brought to Damascus where he is for three days without food or water. God sends a disciple by the name of Ananias to Paul. He was sent to restore sight to Saul, to pass on the gift of the Holy Spirit to him, and to baptize him (verses 10 - 18). I especially want you to notice verse 17. "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and PUTTING HIS HANDS ON HIM said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou comest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT" (emphasis mine). The great apostle Paul started his Christian life with the laying on of hands and baptism. I have commented in detail in my article on WATER BAPTISM as to why in this instant the laying on of hands came BEFORE baptism, which is not the usual case (the reader is asked to request my study paper on water baptism if they do not have it). We see again the ceremony of laying on of hands in connection with baptism. Still a third example is found in Acts 19. Paul came to Ephesus and found certain disciples who were baptized only with John's baptism - John the baptist. They had not even heard that there was such a thing as the Holy Spirit. Paul explained the truth to them and they were baptized in the name of Jesus (verses 1-5). Now we come to verse 6, "And when Paul had LAID HANDS UPON THEM, the Holy Spirit came on them." Some may argue that on the day of Pentecost when 3,000 were baptized, nothing is said about the laying on of hands. My answer to that case is that silence does not prove it was not carried out. The doctrine of the laying on of hands was a well know practice from the time of Abraham, and the apostles, it would seem automatically used the laying on of hands for ordaining the men of Acts 6 to the office of deacon. Then on the other hand the out pouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a special once in all history occurrence, and God does make exceptions to the norm at times and when He deems fit, after all He is God and can do with His Spirit, what, where, and when, as He chooses. My contention is: God has through the three examples given above, a BASIC plan and outline to follow for all who desire His salvation, repentance, faith in Jesus' sacrifice for sins, baptism in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, laying on of hands, the receiving of the Holy Spirit. There may be some exceptions now and then by God to that basic 4 steps, but the overwhelming scriptural evidence builds those foundational steps. Is it not true that it is "better to be safe than sorry"? Yes indeed! Better to do something that Jesus upon His return tells us we did not have to do, than NOT DO SOMETHING Jesus tells us when we see Him, that we SHOULD HAVE DONE. I personally will advise all who are baptizing to have the ceremony of the laying on of hands for those baptized. The laying on of hands may seem unimportant to us. We may say, surely God can do all things without such a ceremony, and yes He can, if He desires to. But it is not left to us to decide HOW we will worship God or serve Him. The Eternal says in Isaiah 55: 8, 9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." We may not always understand the ways of the Lord, they may even seem somewhat "strange" to our human carnal mind, but we need to be of the mind Jesus was and always be willing to say, "not my will but your will be done." Our heavenly Father has seen fit to make the "laying on of hands" one of the FOUNDATIONAL DOCTRINES. Amen - so be it!